(Reuters) – New Zealand holds a general election on Oct. 17, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s centre-left Labour Party holding a wide lead over the centre-right main opposition National Party.

Below are the main issues in the election.

Ardern has called this a “COVID election” and focussed her campaign on her government’s “go hard, go early” response to the outbreak, which has helped boost her popularity and make her an international celebrity.

New Zealand has reported 25 deaths from COVID-19 and around 1,500 infections after Ardern’s swift response, far less than in other developed countries. That’s about 0.05 death per 10,000 people, compared to the United States at 6.49 or India at 0.78, according to Reuters calculations.

New Zealand placed the most significant restrictions on public movements in modern history in the initial phase of the coronavirus outbreak by closing its borders, imposing self-isolation and shutting down most of its economy to contain the spread of the virus.

Labour says it would continue tight controls and quarantines and would strengthen the contact-tracing system.

National says it would establish a border protection agency within 100 days of forming a government to prevent future outbreaks. It blames Labour’s border rules for allowing a recent flare-up in the country’s largest city, Auckland.

Ardern has said climate change is “my generation’s nuclear-free moment”. Labour vows to phase out single-use plastics and replace coal-fired boilers with electric alternatives, and says it would end the use of carbon by public buses by 2035.

It aims to create 11,000 jobs in regional New Zealand to restore the environment, including cleaning up waterways to allow safe swimming.

Ardern says she would accelerate New Zealand’s target of 100% renewable electricity generation by five years to 2030, responding to criticism from opposition leader Judith “Crusher” Collins.

Collins, leader of the

Democratic incumbent Susan Wild and Republican challenger Lisa Scheller sparred over health insurance policy, tax plans and accusations of extremism on Monday during the first 7th Congressional District debate of the general election.



a group of people sitting in a chair in front of a building: The Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce holds an event with the recording of the WFMZ tv show Business Matters with Tony Iannelli, who is holding the first debate between 7th Congressional District candidates Susan Wild, and Lisa Scheller, center, at Saucon Valley Country Club. During a recording break.


© April Gamiz/The Morning Call/The Morning Call/TNS
The Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce holds an event with the recording of the WFMZ tv show Business Matters with Tony Iannelli, who is holding the first debate between 7th Congressional District candidates Susan Wild, and Lisa Scheller, center, at Saucon Valley Country Club. During a recording break.

Scheller was on the offensive from the get-go, criticizing Wild for usually voting with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom Scheller believes is trying to “take us down a road to socialism.” In contrast, Scheller portrayed herself as a business leader who cut taxes and worked across the aisle during her four years serving as a Lehigh County commissioner.

Wild, who in 2018 became the first woman to represent the Lehigh Valley in Congress, pointed out that she was among 14 House Democrats to reject the party’s follow-up coronavirus package, saying it wasn’t specific enough and didn’t do enough to help PA-7 voters. She also noted that 78 Republicans voted for her proposal blocking regulatory changes that would cause health insurance premiums to rise, and that she is working with Republicans on improvements to the paycheck protection program.

“I am by no means a socialist,” Wild said during a one-hour taping of WFMZ-TV 69 1/4 u2032s ‘Business Matters.’ “… I know who I am, and more importantly I believe my constituents know who I am.”

The debate was moderated by Tony Iannelli, president and CEO of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. It will be broadcast in two parts at 7:30 p.m. Monday night and Oct. 12. It was